A pair of teams trying to bounce back from brutal losses last week will meet up on Saturday when the Tennessee Volunteers host the BYU Cougars. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 EST on Saturday, September 7 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. The game can be seen on ESPN.
Oddsmakers list Tennessee as slim 3-point favorites at home with an over/under of 50.5 points. Click here for game odds for the entire Week 2 college football schedule.
It’s hard to find a team in college football that had a worse week than Tennessee. They were 24.5-point favorites at home against Georgia State and lost. The Vols led 23-21 early in the fourth quarter, only to concede 17 straight points. A last-second touchdown made the game 38-30 and appear slightly more respectable, although there’s nothing to respect about an SEC team losing at home as a three-touchdown favorite to a team from the Sun Belt.
The loss certainly complicates things for the Volunteers, who were hoping to at least reach a bowl game in Jeremy Pruitt’s second season. Tennessee only plays three ranked teams this season, but that doesn’t mean their schedule is easy. At the start of the season, the Vols were banking on beating both Georgia State and BYU in order to reach six wins, and now Saturday’s game with the Cougars is even more of a must-win for them.
As for BYU, they began the season against arch-rival Utah and lost at home. The Cougars only trailed 9-6 at halftime, but Utah sized control in the second half and ended up running away with the game. Given the rivalry between the two teams, the loss was tough to take for more than one reason.
Even at 0-1, the Cougars could also be facing a must-win situation this weekend. After going to Tennessee, BYU has to face both USC and Washington before September is over. The likes of Boise State, San Diego State, and in-state rival Utah State also lurk on their schedule. If the Cougars want to assure themselves of a bowl game this year, they may have to take advantage of a vulnerable Tennessee team in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
Not that I ever fully jumped on the Tennessee bandwagon, but I’m certainly going to stand as far away from it as possible now. The Cougars were at least competitive for a half against a team that many think will win the Pac-12 whereas the Volunteers lost to a Sun Belt team that was 2-10 last year. Things are ugly in Knoxville right now, and I think they’ll get worse after BYU beats the Vols on Saturday.
Tennessee was a disappointment in so many ways against Georgia State, but let’s start with the running game. Even a young and inexperienced Tennessee offensive line should have been able to perform better than they did against Georgia State. The Volunteers allowed four sacks and finished the game with less than 100 rushing yards, averaging just three yards per carry.
Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano was also a problem. On the bright side, he connected on 26 of his 40 passes for 311 yards and two touchdowns. But a big chunk of that was negated by an interception and fumble, accounting for two of the team’s four turnovers. The Tennessee wide receivers played well, but Guarantano made mistakes that he shouldn’t be making, especially against a Sun Belt team.
After watching the Vols struggle against Georgia State, I think the BYU defense should be able to contain the Tennessee offense. The Cougars faced Utah’s tandem of quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss last week, and after that, defending the Vols should be a breeze. Keep in mind that BYU only allowed nine points in the first half. Also, the BYU defense didn’t give up much through the air, which bodes well for the matchup with Tennessee. Tennessee struggled to run the ball against Georgia State, which makes me think the Cougars will stuff the run, putting too much on the shoulders of the mistake-prone Guarantano.
On the other side of the ball, the BYU offense will have a much easier time against Tennessee than they did against a stout Utah defense. The Tennessee defense didn’t give up a lot of big plays, but they allowed the Georgia State offense to be methodical. That should play right into BYU’s hands. The Cougars have a decent running back in Ty’Son Williams and a quarterback who can make plays both running and throwing in Zach Wilson. BYU also held the strong Utah defense to just one sack, in part because Wilson is athletic enough to escape trouble. I can see him making plays outside the pocket against Tennessee as well.
In the end, this pick comes down to trust, and there’s no way that I can trust Tennessee after last week’s game. If the Volunteers can bounce back after that humiliating defeat, I’ll tip my cap to them. But I liked the Cougars coming into the season and I like how they kept things tight with Utah into the second half. Right now, I trust BYU more than Tennessee, so I’ll lean toward BYU to win as a road underdog.